Your guide to enjoying the outdoors in New York this summer

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Warm weather is here and it’s here to stay. Get out of the humid subway stations and into the sunlight! Whether you’re looking for an outdoor art installation, a beach campfire, an outdoor adventure, or a theatre performance, you’ll find it all here. Click the links below to get started exploring what New York has to offer this summer.

 

Must-see outdoor art in New York this summer

Summer is a perfect time to admire art in the great outdoors. From the Brooklyn Bridge to the High Line to the Botanical Gardens, we’ve got you covered for the warm weather.

 

THE FENCE

The Fence, a large-scale travelling photo exhibition presented by Photo District News and United Photo Industries, returns to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the sixth year in a row. The work of photographers all over the world is displayed along the Greenway and at Empire Fulton Ferry. This year’s themes are Home, Streets, People, Creatures, Nature, Play, and Food. The Fence will be on display daily until September 10.

99 PLYMOUTH ART EXHIBIT

The Rush Summer Session at Plymouth Art Exhibit will feature site-specific murals made by students at the Rush Philanthropic Art Foundation’s Summer Session. This year’s murals were inspired by and done in the style of Rush Director of Education Meredith McNeal, and celebrate nature among the chaos of the city. The exhibit will be on display in Brooklyn Bridge Park through August 21.

ANISH KAPOOR’S DESCENSION

Photo of Anish Kapoor's Decension
Anish Kapoor’s “Descension” has been installed in the Brooklyn Bridge Park for its debut in the United States. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

 

Descension by Anish Kapoor, creator of Chicago’s Cloud Gate, made its debut in the United States this spring in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1. The swirling 26-foot whirlpool has a mesmerizing impact. The exhibition is sponsored by the Public Art Fund and Chief Curator Nicholas Baume. Descension will be on display until September 10.

DARREN BADER’s chess: relatives

New York-based artist Darren Bader presents a life-size, chrome chess board on the High Line at 13th Street. He encourages visitors to bring their friends and family to play as the life-size pieces, their positions given by their familial relations to one another. Once the game starts, nobody is supposed to ask for clarification on people’s positions. Bader also encourages gathering groups of other High Line visitors. The chess board will be on display through April 2018.

HENRY TAYLOR’s the floaters

Also on the High Line, at 22nd Street, a large-scale mural by LA-based Henry Taylor depicting him and a friend floating around a California pool is on display. This is his first ever installation and will be available for viewing until March 2018.

SHEILA HICKS’S HOP, SKIP, JUMP AND FLY: ESCAPE FROM GRAVITY

In her usual medium of fibers, Sheila Hicks created a colorful, winding commission for the High Line. The twisting tubes of varying colors will be featured on the rails at the Western Rail Yards. Hop, Skip, Jump and Fly: Escape From Gravity will be on display until March 2018.

CHIHULY

Photo of part of the CHIHULY installation
CHIHULY is now on display at the New York Botanical Gardens.

Dale Chihuly’s first major garden exhibition in 10 years is currently on display at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Presented by Bank of America, CHIHULY includes over 20 installations and drawings and sketches from earlier in his career. The gardens will also remain open on Thursdays from July through August for special CHIHULY Nights, where the artworks will be illuminated by lights. Entertainment and drinks will also be available indoors. CHIHULY will run through October 29.

 NEW YORK MADE STANTON COURT STREETS BY KAWS

Nike and the NYC Parks and Recreation Department teamed up to bring two bright and bold courts to the Lower East Side. The courts were designed by Brooklyn-based artist Brian Donnelly (a.k.a. KAWS) and reside in the Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Donnelly often uses cartoon characters in his designs, and these courts don a striking resemblance to Elmo-shaped silhouettes. The designs will be on the court until November 16.

 

Outdoor Theatre

 Seeing a show at the theatre is great, but seeing a free show in the open air is even better. Below we’ve compiled some of the best free outdoor theatre performances that will be taking to the New York City parks this summer.

 

HENRY V

Hudson Warehouse presents Shakespeare’s Henry V every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. from July 27 to August 20. The production is directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith and will take place at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Riverside Park at 89th Street. Every production is free and open to the public.

BROADWAY IN BRYANT PARK

Photo of Broadway in the Park
Broadway in The Park features the best current musicals. (Photo courtesy of NYC Parks)

Every Thursday through August 10, catch the hottest on- and off-Broadway shows performing their greatest hits live in Bryant Park. The performances begin at 12:30 p.m. and are free to the public. A full list of performing shows can be found at the link above.

CINDERELLA SAMBA AT UNION SQUARE

This family-friendly CityParks PuppetMobile production sets the classic Cinderella story in Brazil, where Cinderella attends the biggest Carnival gala in Rio de Janeiro. The show features an original soundtrack full of salsa music and one-of-a-kind puppets from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park. This show runs weekdays at 11:00 a.m. in different parks throughout the city; check the events listing above to find the right one for your family.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

The Public Theater will perform Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.  Free tickets are available for every performance, which run Monday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Performances will run until August 13.

THE TEMPEST

The Drilling Company will wrap up its summer Bryant Park shows with performances of The Tempest, beginning on Friday, August 26. Tickets are free. Performances will run Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. until Saturday, September 9.

 

Fun in Nature

Summertime is the perfect time to take advantage of all of the parks, gardens and beaches in New York City. Here are a few events that take advantage of all the green space and beach space in the five boroughs.

 

BRYANT PARK PICNICS

Photo of Bryant Park
Bryant Park is a great place to hang out this summer. (Creative Commons)

Enjoy a weekly, relaxing picnic in Bryant Park every Friday through September 1. Every picnic is free and features over 100 blankets to borrow, lawn games, entertainment, and food vendors from the Hester Street Fair. ARK Restaurants will also be selling wine and beer. Every week, a new music, dance, or theatre production will be showcased at the picnic.

BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN WORKSHOPS

The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens has a plethora of activities to enjoy throughout the summer, from nocturnal critter tours to kombucha-making workshops. By becoming a member at the garden, you can get discounted admission to the workshops, as well as gaining access to exclusive nights full of family fun, entertainment, and food. Find out more about these events by looking at the schedule above.

QUEENS BOTANICAL GARDEN EVENTS

Similar to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Queens Botanical Garden has workshops, tours and events throughout the summer that will keep you engaged with nature. There are even music nights at the Queens Botanical Gardens, featuring everything from Ska to Samba. By becoming a member, you can have prime access to these events and more.

CAMPFIRES AT JACOB RIIS BEACH

Every Thursday through August 24, Jacob Riis beach hosts a free campfire and sing-along. Families should bring a towel or chair to sit on and everything you need to make the perfect s’more. The fire starts at 7:00 p.m., making it the perfect end to any beach day.

FREE OUTDOOR MOVIES

Photo of outdoor movie in Bryant Park in New York in the summer
Outdoor movies are happening all throughout the city this summer.

All of New York City’s parks host movies, both kid-friendly movies and classics, throughout the summer. Usually at least one is showing a night, in different parks all over the city. You can find the full schedule of free outdoor movies and find the perfect one for you at the link above.

SCAVENGER HUNTS

Scavenger hunts are a fun way to get outside, get competitive, and learn something about your city while doing it. Private and public scavenger hunts are both excellent options depending on what you’re looking for: throwing a party with friends, or just wanting to compete with one other person against strangers. You can plan your large group private hunt ahead of time, or register to tag along on a public hunt with Watson Adventures. Select from a large variety of hunts in different locations, including parks and museums, and with different themes, including Foodie Hunts, Trivia Hunts, History Hunts, and more. Hunts are also divided depending on whether they are suitable for adults, kids, or teens.

 

Outdoor Adventuring

Getting away from the hustle and bustle to really get into nature is always a great idea in the summer. Whether you’re on a lake nestled in Brooklyn, camping a couple of hours upstate, or taste-testing different beers on Long Island, these getaways are the perfect way to adventure into the great outdoors.

 

PROSPECT PARK LAKE

Photo of Prospect Park Lake
Prospect Park’s lake is perfect for boating in the summer. (Creative Commons)

Every Saturday, join in on free rowing on Prospect Park Lake from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. with The Village Community Boathouse. No experience or reservations are necessary. Lifejackets will be provided and must be worn. All boats are launched from the ramp on Well House Drive in the Southwest Corner of the Lake.

BRONX COMMUNITY SAILING DAYS

The Bronx also has free rowing days which are open to the community, every Saturday through September, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sailing will also be available on August 12 and September 10. All rowing and sailing is provided by Rocks the Boat, and takes place in Hunts Point Riverside Park.

FLOYD BENNETT FIELD & GATEWAY NATIONAL RECREATION AREA

Originally New York’s first municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field is now home to all things outdoorsy, and features a variety of programs and events for the adventure enthusiast. Throughout the summer, there are various sailing and kayaking sessions for all different skill types. Their Walk Up & Paddle Days allow visitors to take off in a kayak with the instruction of a park ranger. Nearby there’s the Brooklyn Golf Club, where you can take a swing at mini golf or the driving range. There is also camping available at Floyd Bennett Field, but the slots fill up fast, so make sure to make your reservation well in advance.

Floyd Bennett field is a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which also includes Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island and Sandy Hook in New Jersey. All three boast canoeing, kayaking, hiking and other outdoor activities, and camping is available at all three sites.

LEARN-TO-ROW

Photo of rowing in the summer
Learn to Row with Row New York this summer. (Photo from Row New York)

This introductory class by Row New York teaches you everything you need to know to get into the water and get started rowing. There are two levels: 1 and 2, so you can choose to expand your training after taking the first level class. Level one classes are a one-session program and run every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Level two classes run for eight sessions, Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Classes are taught at the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse on the Harlem River in Northern Manhattan. Check prices and register at the link above.

MALOUF’S MOUNTAIN SUNSET CAMPGROUND

Simply want to get away from the city? Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground makes that easy, even if you don’t have a car. The campsite is easily accessible by the Metro North Hudson River Line. From the Beacon train station, employees will lead you to the hike of your choice, anywhere from thirty minutes to five hours, ending at the campground. They will carry your gear to your campsite so you won’t have to carry it while hiking. At the campground, there are two different kinds of campsites to choose from: a covered platform with a “chow box” full of everything you need to cook over a fire and stay in the woods, or a “primitive” campsite where you bring all your own gear. The campsite has its own bathhouse with hot showers and dryers for any wet gear. If you don’t want to cook, you can even order food from the campground. Getting away for a weekend has never been easier.

FAHNESTOCK STATE PARK

Only one hour away from the city, Fahnestock State Park covers 14,086 acres in both Putnam and Dutchess Counties. Featuring miles and miles of hiking trails (including part of the Appalachian Trail), picnic areas, scenic campgrounds, and opportunities for fishing, hunting, birding and boating, the Park is hard to beat. The beach of Canopus Lake provides a beautiful place to swim, or rent a rowboat. Both tent and RV sites are available on the campground.

KITTATINNY CAMPGROUND

About two hours away from the city in the Catskills, Kittatinny boasts 350 campsites on 250 acres of land. Nestled in between the Delaware River and Beaver Brook, many campsites are water-front accessible. Activities such as whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, and swimming are available in the water. The campground is located right next to Kittatinny’s Adventure Center, where you can race on dual zip-lines or play paintball. Whether you’re camping or not, you can schedule a guided rafting, kayaking, canoeing, or tubing trip on the river.

MTA DEALS & GETAWAYS

Photo of kayaks
The MTA has lots of great pre-packaged getaways, including kayaking. (Creative Commons)

The MTA has a large variety of pre-planned getaways where all you need to do is buy one packaged deal to be set for the day. Select from packages such as Bikes, Bites & Brews, where participants bike through and explore two beautiful South Shore towns, eat lunch at Famous Flo’s in Blue Point, and taste beer at two different breweries. New getaways this year also include Great South Bay Kayak and Paddle Board, which takes participants down to the South Bay to either kayak or paddle board with an all inclusive rental and taxi ride from the Amityville train station. Trips to Connecticut, upstate, Long Island beaches, Splish Splash Water Park, shopping, museums and more are also available.

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